Samsung denies charges of underage labor in China following complaint in France

Three NGOs have filed a complaint in France against a Samsung subsidiary

Samsung Electronics has rejected allegations that underage workers are assembling its products after three NGOs filed a complaint with a French prosecutor's office claiming that the tech company was violating labor regulations in China.

The South Korean company said on Thursday it had yet to receive the court filing, but added in an email, "We want to make clear that Samsung maintains a zero tolerance policy on child labor and the allegations of child labor in a report published this week are false."

The non-governmental organizations -- Peuples Solidaires, Sherpa and Indecosa-CGT -- filed the complaint on Tuesday against a Samsung subsidiary in the country. The South Korean company is not following labor laws in China, and its French affiliate should be held responsible, the groups alleged.

The NGOs' complaint is based on investigations by New York-based China Labor Watch, which has published reports detailing the alleged labor abuses at Samsung factories and suppliers in China. In December, China Labor Watch claimed it had found three underage workers at one such supplier in the country, a charge which the company later denied.

On Thursday, Samsung said it screens out underage workers by requiring all suppliers in China to conduct in-person interviews with job candidates and to use scanning equipment to detect fake IDs.

90 percent of Samsung parts are supplied by its own manufacturing facilities, the company said on Thursday. "This enables Samsung to offer world-class working conditions and comply with international labor standards in all regions in which it operates," it added.

The NGOs, however, believe they have a strong case, although it could be a month or longer before the prosecutor's office decides whether to hear the case. China Labor Watch's founder Li Qiang is currently in France, and said the complaint could force Samsung to rectify its labor violations in China.

"With this legal action, Samsung's labor abuses will be reined in by the law, and ultimately this could improve workers' rights," he said in an email.

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Michael Kan

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